In your head, they are fighting: with their tanks, and their bombs, and their bombs and their guns. What’s in your head, in your head, zombie? True it maybe that these are just lyrics of the famous Cranberries’ song, ‘Zombies’, but ‘zombies’ was actually written not just to entertain the masses, but also to symbolise the immobile state of the human mind — to bring us to terms with the fact that World War I should not just be taught today merely as a horrifying event, but that people should deeply understand the tragedy that it was. Their purpose stands for a cause. Why do I say that? I say it because even after World War I, when the Jewish community was ethnically cleansed in World War II, the world still did not prevent the massacre of the innocent civilians of Palestine and the genocide in Rwanda.I say it because even after the formation of a new peace-oriented world order, the Yom Kippur wars were not avoided. It saddens me that, even in 2017, the absolute horror that reigns on Myanmar’s Muslims is viewed as just another event in a non-strategic and unimportant country. Years down the lane, it will become a small part of global history books. Approximately 290,000 Muslims have fled Myanmar since August 25th of this year to seek refuge elsewhere. The root cause of the conflict however is not just the instigation of violence by Rohingya militants who attacked 30-odd police check-posts in northern Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Instead, the problem stems from systemic violence and institutional persecution taking place against Muslims in Myanmar for decades. Myanmar has historically been controlled, ruled and dominated by the military, which sowed the seeds for ethnic violence by turning a blind eye to Muslim persecution and by denying citizenship to Rohingya Muslims in 1982. In 2014, a Harvard University report called this a slow burning genocide; because the response of the security forces has always remained disproportionate, leading to thousands being displaced and killed in the past. The system and culture in place perpetuates such hatred and violent tactics that, this time around, entire villages have been burnt, thousands have been forced to leave, and the number continues to rise. Large scale public executions of Muslims have become commonplace, whereas the Oxford graduate, champion of human rights and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, remains quiet and is denying any abuse of anyone’s human rights. Drawing a comparison between Myanmar and Rwanda reminds, one of the massacre and genocide that took place 20 years ago. Regrettably, the similarities between the two are unrelenting. In the earlier stages of the mass killing in Rwanda, when reports of Hutus killing Tutsis were making headlines across the world, the United States watched silently — and so did the United Nations. They are doing the same now. Even The New York Times had pictures of dead bodies piling up on streets and churches, but the debate on whether this was a genocide didn’t start until 6 weeks later. The independent Myanmar Human Rights Watch has claimed that state-led, military-sponsored violence has been targeting Muslims, burning entire villages; and the number of dead is rising by the day. Will the United States and UN condemn the acts of violence and label it as genocide only when the numbers of dead reach thousands, like they did in Rwanda long after the was damage was done? Probably, yes. In Rwanda, the problem was the same as Myanmar: the country was of no benefit to the United States’ geopolitical or strategic goals; not enough importance to deserve a response from powerful western states. When Romeo Dallaire, the military head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, sought permission to engage the government-sponsored Tutsi militias hell-bent upon cleansing Hutu minority, he was advised against it because the United States didn’t want full scale intervention in an unstable African country. Intelligence reports of planned executions of Hutus in Kigali were discarded. The United States — according to then-US ambassador to Rwanda, David Rawson — was imaginatively narrow in its definition of genocide. Will the United States and UN condemn acts of violence and label them as genocide only when the numbers of dead reach thousands? Like they did in Rwanda long after the damage had been done Instead, President Bill Clinton’s administration didn’t concede that it was genocide because they didn’t want American boots on ground in Africa. In the aftermath, the West’s policy on Rwanda was concluded to be ill-informed and misguided, because most of the countries — including the US — viewed it as just another flare-up like the one on the Burundi border, where 40,000 were killed. To think of Myanmar is perturbing. Its geostrategic location is unimportant; the refugee crisis won’t trouble major stakeholders in world politics, nor does it have massive oil reserves to warrant America’s concern. President Trump hasn’t once discouraged the Rohingya killings. The worse is yet to come, because Myanmar’s military generals continue to have a free hand. The same happened in Rwanda: there are outcries in the international media and by human rights organisations, but the so-called guardians of human rights remain silent. Perhaps for them, this is just another ‘flare up’ in a historically unstable province of Myanmar, where violence against the minority has been the norm. In my opinion, the truth is that the slow burning genocide is on the verge of turning into a full-fledged — or perhaps has turned already turned into a full-scale — genocide. In March alone, two UN officials claimed that as many as 1,000 Muslims had been killed in an army crackdown, and that was 5 months before the ongoing wave of deadly violence. In 1998, Bill Clinton became one of the very few American Presidents ever to issue an apology. In a speech in Rwanda, he apologised to the country and claimed that the World should have acted swiftly and done more to stop the killing. ‘Zombies’ was written precisely for this: to make people feel the tragedy rather than just read it in history books. It remains to be seen whether Myanmar would suffer the same fate: but for now, the genocide remains underway. The writer is a student of International Relations at London School of Economics, President of the London School of Economics Pakistan Development Society, Vice President of LSE South Asia Society, and Co-Founder, Future of Pakistan Conference. He tweets @OmerAzhar96 Published in Daily Times, September 14th 2017.